Customer Service: Once was more than enough, thank you

Published on 14 September 2016 at 9:45 am #businessskillscourses #changemanagement #customerservicecourses #customerservicetraining #influencingskills #negotiationskills

In last week's blog, I brought you some ideas about what makes good customer service.

So, now let's do the opposite. Think about places, companies, shops, etc., you'll never, ever go back to, not in a million years. Hotels that make Fawlty Towers look like the Ritz (OK, maybe not the Ritz, but...). Shops with untrained staff who enjoy chatting amongst themselves rather than serve a (gasp!) customer. People who DON'T LISTEN. People who you can tell are:


Places or people that never keep their word - they wouldn't know what exceeding expectations looked like, let along ever try to have a go at achieving it.

You'll find as you do this list that there will be a lot of energy around it. You'll re-visit old frustrations and angers, even if they happened years ago. You may even have a lot more emotions thinking about the negatives than about your positive list.

That's how potent bad customer service can be: it seems to stay in our cell structure.


Have you ever complained?

We mean gone out of your way to make a complaint to a company or store or service provider.

We ask, because it usually takes a lot to get to the complaining stage. Most people have to be well and truly fed up to make the effort to ring up or write a letter. We know there are perennial complainers who will complain about anything and everything. If you're one of those, lighten up. We're not talking to you!

No, we're talking to the kind of regular folk who are generally satisfied; don't get too hot under the collar when things don't go all that smoothly; want to be pleasant and for people to be pleasant in return.

You know what we mean when we say it takes a lot to get you to complain.

So what happened? What did you have to do and did it work? Did getting on the phone and making your dissatisfaction known have any impact? Did you get a response to your letter or email? Were you taken care of? Were your expectations met?

Companies could learn a lot if they look at the reason why people complain and just how much it takes for them to do so. Now, fortunately, a lot more of these regular folk are indeed complaining, which is why many companies are offering customer hot lines and make a big deal of saying how much their customers matter.

Quite honestly, we think a lot of that is lip-service. Companies may have loyalty schemes, retention teams, lapsed member squads, but they still haven't fully got under the skin of what customers want. They do try, but in our experience, if something is convenient for them it often doesn't matter if it's inconvenient for us.

Are we being unfair? Probably. So read on.

It's a thankless job

Up till now we've been concentrating on what happens to 'us' the customers. But what about 'them' the customer carers?

Since blaming them is what we think is the right thing to do when things go wrong, people who deal with the public, either face to face or on the phone, have to manage a barrage of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, anger and frustration on an on-going basis.

No wonder staff turnover in retail is so high. Indeed, did you know that pretty much the largest turnover of staff in the UK is in call centres? Well, how many of us would want to work in one? We're not talking about the environment that phone advisers work in (some are terrific and have a superb atmosphere); what we're on about is the fact that day in and day out, hour after hour, these people have to deal with us.

Whether we're in the regular folk or perennial complainer category, most of us tend to find it easier to point out faults than to praise and acknowledge when things go right.

And we're not always sensible when we do have a complaint.

We make assumptions that the person in front of us or on the phone will know exactly what we're talking about. We take out all our frustrations and annoyances on the person who's representing the company even if they had nothing to do with why we're angry.

Not only that, we might use this particular forum to vent a whole lot of anger that doesn't have anything to do with the person, the company or the thing we're complaining about! (It's called kicking the cat).

If, in the face of this, the person on the receiving end of our request (we were going to write rant, but we know things don't always come out of our mouths in rant form) gets defensive, we don't like it. It makes us even more frustrated or angry.

Here's an exercise you can do with a chum.

One of you thinks of something to complain about (something that you feel genuinely pissed off about) and the other person is the customer carer.

The complainer just has a go about everything that's wrong, what the company didn't do, how you were let down, etc. The person on the receiving end of this responds in whatever you want (except physical violence please; you are a chum after all).

In most cases it doesn't take too long to feel and get defensive even if you had the best intentions of staying calm. Even in a simple exercise like this where nothing is at stake, our sense of helplessness and of feeling under attack get recreated really quickly. It's a natural response to get defensive or to want to strike back or to hide away inside ourselves till the storm subsides.

That's what's happening to the people we have a go at when we're unhappy about something.

These front line people do have a lot to contend with. If they haven't really been trained well, then they are already going to be at a disadvantage. Indeed, their job can feel a very thankless one.

In the next article, I'll show you how important is for customers and customers servers to find common ground. Ultimately, 'we' want good service, and 'they' want to do a good job for their organisation.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory.

Check out Impact Factory's Customer Service course.